Community, “Anthropology 101”: I bless the rains down in Africa!

I’ll do my best to keep my raging lust for Joel McHale in check when I talk about Community, but DAMN, Gina – he is fine, and Community is hysterical. I was so glad to see the second season start off strong because when Community is on, it’s very, very on.

I’ve got to hand it to Dan Harmon and the writing staff for creating in Abed a character that can, for all intents and purposes, communicate the writers’ message directly to the audience and do so in a way that’s not heavy-handed or disingenuous. In one fell swoop, he acknowledged the audience’s love for the self-contained antic- and action-heavy stories (like last year’s epic paintball episode) while asking for their patience and trust as they continue with the underlying romantic thread between Jeff and Britta, and now, Annie. He asked us to see their relationship as an adventure, and then provided us with one as Jeff and Britta proceed to one-up each other in an attempt to be seen by the student body as the sympathetic “jiltee” or “the Aniston” if you will.

One thing I love about this show is that it’s not afraid to be smart and clever and use cultural references, but what I love even more is that it’s not afraid to be dumb and obvious. When Senor Chang yelled “GAAAAAY” during Jeff’s presentation and then muttered “A GAY fact,” I laughed just as hard as when Annie referenced the makeout meter in the National Review.

One thing I don’t love about the show: Britta. She’s a scene-killer, but I can’t put my finger on why. I get that she and Jeff are the straight (wo)man to the rest of the group’s wackiness, but I just find her annoying. Maybe I’m just jealous of any Joel McHale love interest.

And speaking of Joel (yes, we’re on a first name basis), I hope this season moves away from the trend of making Jeff the jerk for the first half of the episode, tearing him down and reminding the audience that he’s still the self-centered lawyer con-artist he always has been, and then building him back up during the second half, reassuring everyone that he’s still got a heart of gold and is the beloved-yet-reluctant leader of this ragtag group of misfits. There’s so much more story that these characters eccentricities can provide than to just retread that arc over and over again, and I hope the writers take advantage of the excellent cast they’ve got and the character development they’ve built in season one.

That character development really pays off in blink-and-you-miss-it moments like Abed high-fiving the priest during the makeshift wedding. It’s those wink-and-a-nudge moments, almost always carried out by Abed (“Would you consider spinning off with me?” “Is this you being meta?”), that make the Community audience feel like a part of the “in-crowd.” Like the running Batman gag, the “oldwhitemansays” jabs at “Shit My Dad Says” or the urine call-back, the most fun parts of Community are when the plot and characters refer back to themselves in such a way as to make us feel like we’re all part of an inside joke.

“Is there any room in this pocket for a little Spare Chang?” Don’t we all feel that way?

P.S. I guess I should acknowledge Betty White’s guest starring role as the Anthropology professor. She’s old, so everything she does is funny! Especially rapping! Or being violent! Or talking about sex! I’m with Creed (anyone watch The Office?) in thinking that the Betty White thing has run its course. Old people are funny in the same way animals and kids are funny – stick to YouTube and America’s Funniest Home Videos.


One response to “Community, “Anthropology 101”: I bless the rains down in Africa!

  1. I loved it when Betty White attacked Jeff and hissed “That is why you fail!” like a psychotic Yoda. And I thought it was a very strong start to season 2. I didn’t like where last season ended with Britta and Jeff, and Jeff kissing Annie. Good god, she’s 18! (And yes I know Alison Brie is in her late 20s in real life, but still – ewww). They seemed to resolve it all pretty well. I love this show. It’s my favorite show right now and I always seem to watch each week’s episode multiple times.

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